You probably remember that Ronald Reagan loved his jellybeans. But did you know that Richard Nixon had a passion for Grand Marnier souffles? or that Gerald Ford liked butter pecan ice cream and Lyndon Johnson was partial to tapioca pudding? Presidents seem to really enjoy their desserts, but, whether prodded by First Ladies, jolted by health scares, or aware of how PR could affect their image, they often became more health-conscious as their terms of office went along, even if they used to balk like children at the thought of vegetables. (Remember the brouhaha that ensued when it came out that Poppi Bush wouldn’t eat broccoli?)
So Jimmy Carter asked for collard greens and Reagan started eating bran muffins; Bill Clinton loved sweet potatoes and while Barack Obama sometimes craves a burger, he’s usually on board with Michelle’s organic menus.
Here are a few recipes in honor of President’s Day and in honor of the (so-far) men who, although they had the most powerful job in the world, still craved a home-cooked meal at the end of the day.
Martha Washington’s Crab Soup
In the spring of 1975, a historic recipe was received by the White House kitchen along with the following memo: “Attached is a recipe for Martha Washington’s Crab Soup which was served at the Senate Wives’ Red Cross Luncheon recently…”.
(Modernized and adapted for the home cook in The White House Family Cookbook, by Henry Haller)
1 tablespoon butter
5 teaspoons flour
3 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Pinch of salt
Pinch of freshly ground white pepper
4 cups milk
1/2 pound cooked crabmeat
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup dry sherry
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine butter, flour, eggs, lemon rind salt, and pepper.
In a separate saucepan, bring milk to a oil; remove from heat. Gradually pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring with a wire whisk.
Add crabmeat, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes; do not boil. Add cream and remove from heat.
Stir in sherry and Worcestershire sauce and serve piping hot.
Mary Todd Lincoln’s Vanilla-Almond Cake
(Modernized for the home cook and adapted from Lincoln’s Table, by Donna D. McCreary)
6 egg whites
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup blanched almonds, chopped in a food processor to resemble a coarse flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until stiff, about 4 minutes; set aside. Sift the flour and baking powder together in a medium bowl; set aside.
Beat the butter and sugar together with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour mixture, alternating with the milk, beating after each addition. Stir in the almonds.
Fold the egg whites into the batter; stir in the vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10- to 12-cup bundt pan. Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove from pan to a wire rack; let cool 1 hour.
Dust with confectioners’ sugar, or top with white frosting of your choice.